The Jewish Dickens

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20040125

Israel Zangwill He's largely forgotten now, but Israel Zangwill was a giant figure in English literary life from the early 1890s until his death in 1926.

He made his name with Children Of The Ghetto in 1892, a panoramic novel of life in the poverty-stricken Jewish East End.

The Manchester Guardian called it.

'The best Jewish novel ever written'.

In a culture that resented Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe as 'destitute aliens', Zangwill tried to set the record straight by showing their humanity and spirituality.

For the last thirty years of his life Zangwill was also deeply - and controversially - involved in Zionism, arguing that a Jewish homeland should not be in Palestine.

Mark Whitaker assesses the literary and political career of the father of the English immigrant novel.